Jaguar

Species profile

Name: the jaguar (Panthera onca) is the only ‘big cat’ native to the Americas. The big cats are made up of the five species in the genus Panthera – the others being lions, tigers, leopards, and snow leopards.

Appearance: jaguars typically have tawny yellow coats covered with rosettes which provide camouflage in the dappled light of their forest habitats. Around 6% of the South American jaguar population have black coats and are known as ‘black panthers’.

Size: jaguars are the third largest cats in the world after tigers and lions. They typically measure around 1.6 to 2.6 metres long and weigh between 56 to 96 kg – although some large males can weigh was much as 158 kg!

Diet: they are opportunistic hunters which can prey on virtually any animal found in Central or South America including caiman, turtles, fish, deer, capybara, tapir, peccaries, dogs, foxes, frogs, mice, birds, sloths, monkeys, and even anacondas.

Did you know: in pre-Columbian Central and South America, the jaguar was a symbol of power and strength. In the Colombian Andes, the jaguar was considered a sacred animal and people dressed in jaguar skins during religious rituals. In the Mayan civilisation, the jaguar was believed to facilitate communication between the living and the dead and to protect the royal household. The Maya saw jaguars as their companions in the spiritual world and a number of Maya rulers bore names that incorporated the word for jaguar.

Location: they range across a variety of forested and open terrains although their preferred habitat is tropical and subtropical forest. Their range extends from the south-western United States and Mexico, across Central America, and down to Paraguay and northern Argentina.

Best places to see jaguars

According to reports submitted to WildSide, the best places to see jaguars are as follows:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Los Llanos
Colombia
0%
very low
5.0
very good
1
reports
Madre de Dios
Peru
0%
very low
4.8
very good
4
reports
Osa Peninsula
Costa Rica
0%
very low
4.5
very good
1
reports
Tortuguero
Costa Rica
0%
very low
2.0
average
1
reports